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Answers To Questions About Advance Health Care And HIPAA

Understanding living wills, powers of attorney, advance health directives and how HIPAA privacy regulations affect your family is an important part of an effective estate planning strategy. "HIPAA" is an acronym for the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It protects our right to privacy in our personal health information.

At the law offices of Paul V. L. Campo Attorney At Law, in Vista, California, we have been answering questions about ways to use health care directives effectively for more than three decades. Below are some broad overview answers to common questions we are frequently asked. Of course, every family situation is different, so please call to schedule a consultation with attorney Paul Campo.

Q. Won't my spouse automatically get the right to make health care decisions for me?

A. Marriage does not automatically allow the healthy spouse to make health care decisions for the other, incapacitated spouse, absent written authority granting such rights. California uses a document known as the advance health care directive to create these rights.

Q. I have a power of attorney for health care. Isn't that good enough?

A. It takes the place of the former durable power of attorney for health care, and the former physician's directive (commonly known as the living will). The advance health care directive allows the principal to designate one or more agents to make health care decisions when he or she is unable to do so.

Q. What about complicated decisions about organ harvesting?

A. The advance health care directive also allows you to put your decisions in writing, so your family won't be left with tough emotional choices. You can stipulate your choices regarding end-of-life pain medication, life support, allow organ harvesting after death, your primary care physician and much more.

HIPAA Questions And Answers

Q. I've heard of HIPAA, but what is it?

A. As mentioned above, HIPAA actually stands for the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a law first passed by the United States Congress in 1996 and amended over the years. Among other things, the law requires all medical personnel to protect a patient's right to privacy in his or her personal health information. When we are incapacitated, we depend upon the agents we have previously named in an advance health care directive to make medical decisions for us. In order to permit our agents to make meaningful decisions, we must waive our right to privacy and authorize them by name to access our confidential medical records. Otherwise, our agents cannot know how to make intelligent decisions and carry out our wishes.

Q. Does HIPAA affect spouses?

A. Yes, spouses should also be listed as an agent in an advance health care directive.

Q. What if I'm already listed as the agent on the advance health care directives?

A. A person who is suddenly incapacitated must previously have waived in writing his or her right to privacy in protected health information to allow the persons acting as agents under his or her advance health care directives to access such information. The waiver and authorization apply regardless of whether one is a spouse or not. Otherwise, we face the bizarre possibility that our named agents may be denied access to our confidential medical records.

Contact Us With All Of Your Questions

The stakes are too high to make an error in these critical areas of the law. Make sure you get sound, experienced legal counsel before signing any documents or nominating someone as your agent under an advance health care directive.

Call our offices in Vista at 760-691-1081 or send an email to arrange a free, no-obligation 30-minute consultation with attorney Paul Campo as soon as possible.